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How to Become an Arborist

become an arborist

For the outdoorsman who has a genuine appreciation for nature, as well as a love to challenge themselves, becoming an arborist is a thrilling career choice.   

If you love to climb, arborist work can take you back to a happy place when you were a kid climbing tree-to-tree. They always say if you like what you do, you will never work a day in your life.   

So, if you have a strong sense of adventure and a love of nature, what would you need to do to become an arborist? What does the job entail, and how can you get started?  

What is an arborist?  

By the dictionary definition, an arborist is a specialist in the cultivation and care of trees and shrubs, including tree surgery, the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tree diseases and the control of pests. That can begin to paint the picture, but there is a wide variety of tasks and jobs that can come from being a certified arborist.   

Arborists will prune, hedge, and remove trees. They do not just cut down trees, though. Arborists work to plant trees, and help trees grow in the right areas, as well as maintain trees.   

Certified arborists can diagnose tree disease, as well as insect or pest problems too. Drought mitigation and fertilization are a part of the job as well. Helping sustain tree-life is a significant positive of the career.   

Arborists are also experts in tree branches: dead, excessive, and dying as well as tree removal. Tree and branch clean up due to storms, damages, and unwanted tree removal, as well as other emergency tree care, is a part of the job. It is not a tedious job, and every day will be different with a variety of tasks.   

Certification to become an arborist.  

ISA arborist certification is a voluntary process, but it is accredited by the American National Standard Institute. This meets and exceeds ISO 17024. It is not a requirement, but any major business will be looking to hire ISA certified arborists due to the commitment, dedication, and knowledge they show.  

To earn the certification, you must complete one of the following:  

  • 3 years or more of full-time, eligible, practical field experience in arboriculture  
  • A degree in arboriculture, horticulture, forestry, or landscape architecture.   

Beyond that, the arborist must pass an entrance test and maintain their certification status. When you are hiring a certified arborist, you know that this is an experienced, educated, and committed expert who has the correct arborist supplies for any job.   

Types of Jobs for Arborist   

There are a variety of jobs that can be found for arborists. Municipalities will hire arborists to clean up streets, highways, parks, as well as planting and maintaining trees around the area. Power companies will also hire arborists to clear debris or trees that may affect the livelihood of others. Arborists can also work for colleges and universities, housing plants, country clubs, and other major companies that have areas of land that need maintained, or cleaned of dead trees.  

Arborist firms and other large companies are put together to make this process easier and find the right arborists for the right projects.   

Since this is a job that requires climbing and a lot of physical activity, it may not be a long term career choice through retirement. However, many firms and companies offer jobs that feature growth, such as managerial roles. Duties can include developing projects, overseeing maintenance and equipment, recordkeeping, and more.   

How much do arborists make?  

The wages of an arborist can vary depending on the area of the country you are in, as the demand can vary across the country. However, as of 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed 47,210 employed arborists. Their average hourly wage was $20.44, and the average annual salary was $42,510. The median hourly wage came to $19.22, and the median annual salary was $39,980.   

The hourly wage of arborists can range from $12.72 hourly to over $30 hourly, and from $26,450 to $62,390.  

The danger of being an arborist  

Being outdoors, climbing, and being out in nature throughout the workweek has plenty of its benefits. However, it is important to note that the job is not just hanging in the trees all day. There is physical work that comes with it. This work goes on no matter the conditions and often can be required in the worst circumstances.   

Becoming an arborist comes with an understanding of the danger and safety precautions needed to climb as well as the fitness to maintain through the elements. This is why having an arborist certification is so important. It shows experience and understanding of what is needed.   

Becoming an Arborist  

Does this sound like a dream job for you? For many, becoming a professional arborist is exactly what they envisioned a workday to look like when they were younger. With the proper education, experience, and safety precautions, this can be a fun and more rewarding job.   

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